Reviews & Blurbs

“By chronicling games with an exuberant, encyclopedic scholarship worthy of Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy, Mr. Fox defamiliarizes our view of sport through the sheer dint of exotic detail. A realm of behavior that we take for granted is seen anew in all of its original strangeness. The ball itself—whether made of grass and beeswax, opossum pelts, kangaroo scrotums or seal hides—is depicted freshly as an extraordinary invention of human happiness.”

—Will Blythe review, Wall Street Journal

“Anyone who has ever thrown, caught, bounced, hit (or whiffed) a ball will mightily enjoy John Fox’s stories of where all these balls came from and why, from our earliest days, they have been such an integral part of the very fun that makes us human.”

—Frank DeFord, NPR commentator and author of The Old Ball Game

“Innocent but esoteric questions from children can be hard to answer. When a child asks ‘How do birds fly?’ ‘Who invented the alphabet?’ or ‘Why is the sky blue?’ sometimes the answer is difficult to distill enough for young minds. For the intrepid, this is a matter of breaking down complex ideas to very basic concepts, but for others, it can be too much of a challenge. Fortunately, author John Fox is dauntless…The Ball is a fascinating read that – like a good ball game – is both compelling and fun.”


“John Fox is equal parts historian, anthropologist, world traveler, sports nut, and storyteller. The Ball is a fascinating exploration not just of the games we play but why we play them — of what our ballgames tell us about ourselves.”

—William Landay, New York Times bestselling author of Defending Jacob

“It was a smart caveman who first thought, hey, if I whip this rock at the head of that saber-tooth tiger, I won’t have to chase it down and wrestle the sharp-clawed beast. But as hunting gave way to ranching and gathering became Whole Foods, what becomes of the Paleolithic Andy Pettitte inside us all? How about a game of catch?

That’s a supposition of the fun and anecdotal new book ‘The Ball,’ by anthropologically minded journalist John Fox, which uses the evolution of the ball itself to trace mankind’s progress from prehistory through ancient Egypt and gladiatorial Rome to the births of modern sports like tennis and “base-ball.”

—New York Post

“In tracing the fascinating history of ball games — from the primal contests between prehistoric tribes playing with stuffed balls of grass, to the hypercommercialized violence of twenty-first-century Super Bowls — readers witness the evolution of more than just sports…A book for fans and scholars alike!”


“An anthropologist and freelance journalist debuts with a peripatetic analysis of our ball games — where they came from, how they evolved and why we love them. Fox darts around the globe to show us the origins of our games. He dismisses legends (Abner Doubleday), confirms truths (James Naismith and basketball), participates as well as observes and teaches us how all sorts of balls were and are made….crackerjack reporting crackles throughout.”

—Kirkus Reviews

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